“There will always be more needs than a local church can meet. Every good opportunity is not a call from God.” —Charles R. Swindoll
For the individual follower of Christ, the single most practical book in the Bible is probably James. For the church, it has got to be 1 Timothy. In this book, Paul leaves practically no proverbial stone unturned, addressing a wide variety of issues confronting the church. These issues are just as relevant in the 21st century as they were in the first. But just when we think Paul has exhausted all the important topics, he comes up with one more in chapter 5—how the church ought to treat widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16). What he said might surprise us.
Observations Regarding Widows
Paul never mentioned it, but underlying his instructions about widows are two important biblical themes. One recalls the fifth commandment to the children of Israel—honour your fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), and the second recalls the example of how God executes justice for the widow (Deuteronomy 10:18). As Paul would tell Timothy, in some cases families must cease shirking their responsibilities, and in others the church must step up its care to those who are “widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:3).
Responsibilities to Widows
By the time Paul wrote Timothy in AD 63, the custom of caring for widows was being abused. The abuse wasn’t perpetrated against widows but by widows and their families. In the Ephesian church, all widows were supported by the congregation, which placed a heavy burden on the ministry. Paul prescribed a policy in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 on how to correct this abusive situation.
Paul’s Practical Reminders
When it comes to caring for widows, it’s easy to be pulled by emotions into unwise decisions. That’s why Paul’s instructions are so helpful. And so are his practical reminders.
- Caring for one’s dependent parents is a serious, scriptural responsibility
- Grief doesn’t always result in godliness
- The church is never expected to support everyone in need
- A full, busy life is much safer than an idle one
One last thought. Single mothers are, in a way, widows. What’s the church’s responsibility to them and what ministries does your church provide?
“What about Widows?” is from Chuck Swindoll’s series Excellence in Ministry: Finishing Well—Doing What’s Best in the Challenges of Ministry. You can stream this message online anytime at insightforliving.ca/audiolibrary.